Gossip defined; A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts. Rumor or report of an intimate nature.
There are around 127 passages about gossip in the Bible. Here are a few questions to keep in mind while reading this study.
1. When is gossip, gossip?
2. Is gossip only when we malign someone else?
3. Is false testimony about ourselves gossip?
4. Does it make any difference who we are talking about, or what we are talking about?
5. When is it okay to talk about someone else?
6. How about in the use of an example in ministry?
7. Can we do it without names?
8. What are our motives?
9. Is our heart true or vindictive and self satisfying?
10. What is the purpose of bringing up a name or a situation if it’s not glorifying to God?
11. How does gossip affect our walk with the Lord?
In Genesis 37:2-36; 39:1-20 we read an incredible event about a young boy by the name of Joseph. Joseph was the youngest son of Israel, a Hebrew shepherd boy sold into slavery by his brothers, who were motivated by jealousy, to the Ishmaelites. In turn the Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, a captain of the guard for Pharaoh. After observing that Joseph had been given great success by the Lord, Potiphar made Joseph his personal attendant, putting Joseph in charge of Potiphar’s entire household and everything he owned. Because of Joseph, the Lord blessed everything Potiphar had, in the house and in the field. Potiphar trusted Joseph so much that he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
We read that Joseph was well-built and handsome, catching the eye of Potiphar’s wife. I’m thinking Mrs. Potiphar was probably very attractive and very spoiled, getting anything she wanted when she wanted it, and it seems this day she wanted Joseph. Mrs. Potiphar approached Joseph about going to bed with her, but Joseph refused her advances by explaining it would be a sin against God if he were to fall to this temptation. But this didn’t stop Mrs. Potiphar, she kept on with her advances day after day and Joseph kept rejecting her day after day.
One day Joseph entered the house to attend to his duties, when he noticed that there were no other servants in the house, there was just Mrs. Potiphar and himself. (Gen 39:11) Mrs. Potiphar grabbed Joseph by the cloak saying, “come to bed with me!” Joseph pulled away leaving his cloak in her hands as he ran out of the house. As soon as Mrs. Potiphar realized she had Joseph’s cloak in her hand she screamed for her household servants to come in the house and she told them, (vs 14) “This Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” (Gen 39:14-15) Mrs. Potiphar had to make sure to let her servants know what to say to support her story (since they were not actually there when it happened). Can you imagine the gossip being spread throughout the household servants, being well rooted by a vindictive woman?
When Mrs. Potiphar told Mr. Potiphar what had happened (by the way her story changed from making sport of us in vs 14 to making sport of me in vs 17, its all about her) his anger burned toward Joseph so badly that he had Joseph thrown into the King’s prison. (Gen 39:11-20)
Mrs. Potiphar devised a malicious lie fueled by anger, jealousy, bitterness, and resentment because of rejection. She didn’t get what she wanted so she made up a lie, spreading it throughout her household servants (gossip) so her lie could be confirmed, even though none were there when it happened, they only had gossip to rely on. Because of this chain of events Mrs. Potiphar set out to use the most powerful and damaging weapon of all--the tongue--to destroy Joseph's unblemished reputation and character, especially to Potiphar. As expected, Potiphar became outraged, so much so that he had Joseph, his personal and trusted attendant, thrown in prison.
Joseph’s spotless reputation and character was stolen by gossip (the gossip of Mrs. Potiphar and her servants). Now, not only were they (Mrs. Potiphar and the other servants) gossips but they were thieves as well. Joseph had some decisions to make, was he going to be faithful and obedient to God or was he going to become angry and vindictive doing the very thing that had been done to him. Joseph chose obedience in honoring God and, because of that, God’s favor went with Joseph and stayed upon him; even in prison, gaining the favor of the prison warden. (Gen 39:21-23)
When we gossip, or even participate in gossip, we are actively and voluntarily engaging in a destructive purpose, character assassination and theft. Basically, gossip is a destructive need for personal gratification, making one’s self feel good about one’s self by destroying the character and reputation of another.
You see “misery loves company.” Some people cannot stand the thought of someone else succeeding, whether spiritually, physically, or financially; so they search for reasons to accuse and discredit the person, ministry, business, etc. to make themselves feel better about who they are.
Do not spread false reports. (Exod 23:1) The Pharisees were continually chasing Jesus around in hopes of trapping Him with His own words. (Matt 22:15-22; Mark 3:1-6) There are many Christians who spend valuable time searching for something to discredit another person or ministry with just because they don’t agree with how they minister or conduct their business.
There are plenty of ministries that seem to be spiritual whipping boys because of disagreements with how they handle themselves while doing ministry. Let’s do a hypothetical. What if you were walking down a busy street and came upon a crowd listening to and watching a man. You push your way through the crowd to the point where you can view and hear what is going on. You realize that this man is ministering to a blind man and you get there just in time to see the minister spit on the eyes of the blind man and say, “Do you see anything?” The blind man looks up and says, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more the man puts his hands on the blind man’s eyes. This time his eyes are opened, and his sight restored, seeing everything clearly.
The questions to be asked are: “What would our first reaction be?” and, secondly, “How would we handle what we’ve just witnessed?” Honestly, there would be a lot of skepticism on my part, allowing my human rationality and thoughts to run amuck. (And believe me there would be plenty of thoughts I would have to gather and take captive.) I’d be eager to tell someone about the kook down the street scamming people into thinking he could heal using unconventional tactics, theatrics, and large crowds. Would we be satisfied with leaving it in God’s hands? Or would we be like James and John, more than willing to call fire down upon the Samaritans who would not receive Jesus? (Luke 9:51-56) Would we have to tell all our friends and relatives, ejecting our own commentary and opinion every time the story is told? Jesus went through this same ridicule. In fact, Mark 8:22-26 records the healing of the blind man with spit and the laying on of hands. In most every instance recorded, it was the religious who were most offended; spreading gossip to discredit Jesus because they didn’t agree with what he was doing, the way He was doing it, or when He was doing it. Jesus did not fit within the constraints of their tiny religious box. How many of us would be on that same bandwagon, criticizing and ridiculing, if Jesus were to appear today doing the same things He did throughout His ministry?
Yes, I know the pat answer is that we are not Jesus, and that’s correct, but Jesus did say in John 14:12-13 that if anyone has faith in Him, we will do what he has been doing. Jesus goes a step further by saying we can do even greater things than what He did. Which tells me that we can use spit to heal the blind, tell a person with a withered hand to stretch it out before the crowd to be healed, and order the demons to submit and they must. Criticism, ridicule and gossip is to be expected from nonbelievers, but it is the believers who attack other Christians (and end up gossiping) because of their lack of understanding or possibly faith. This is the perseverance the Bible tells us to battle through.
One day we will all kneel before the throne of judgment. We will be judged upon our theatrics as well as the way we handle the gifts God has given us. Remember whoever has been given much, much will be demanded (Luke 12:48); rest assured we will also be judged upon every careless and critical word we speak, attacks we make, and critical gossip. (Matt 12:36-37) It doesn’t matter if the criticism is against a man of God or a fraud, we as believers should be above such heathenistic behavior.
God uses many types of people in many types of ministries. Let me explain: a ministry is not always an organization, or a group; ministry, often times, is one on one, doing God’s will wherever and whenever, even if those around you don’t agree with what you are doing. Petra has a song with the lyrics, “I’d rather be a fool in the eyes of man rather then a fool in the eyes of God.” When we start attacking (spreading gossip) over frivolous things it is time we examine our heart, our motives. Are our motives self-seeking or are they glorifying to God? Many times we think we have to help God expose the false teachers and doctrines: if that is God’s plan for someone, be obedient, and seek God’s guidance; but if it is us trying to help God without His asking or us drawing attention to ourselves, we have sinned. We need to repent and spend some serious time seeking God’s true will for our lives.
God is very diverse in His ways of reaching people, known only to Him. So, when we indulge in gossip, God has no part in it, it’s all self satisfaction indulging a jealous spirit. The truth is, gossip greatly hinders the Kingdom of God. We have reasons as numerous as gossip itself why we need to gossip, but the fact is we need to be ashamed of ourselves and repent of such wicked motives, God will deal with those we don’t agree with, the same way God will deal with us for what we are doing. A trustworthy saying is: If we would keep our porch clean, we wouldn’t have time to clean anyone else’s porch.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and the religious leaders were angry and vindictive people, willing to stop at nothing to discredit Jesus, while elevating themselves up to be important, knowledgeable, and dignified. We still have plenty of Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious leaders today, spreading their gossip fueled by the thought of discrediting and damaging someone in hopes of drawing attention to themselves. Is behavior like this glorifying to God?
Gossip indicates an unclean heart (Matt 15:10-20) and out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. A bitter pill to swallow is accepting the fact that we are to bless those who give false testimony and slander our reputation. (Romans 12:14) (Giving false testimony and slandering is persecution.)
Put yourself in Joseph’s place, would you want to bless Potiphar or his wife? It doesn't say that Joseph blessed them but the Lord did give Joseph favor while in prison. (Gen 39:21) I wouldn’t think God would reward Joseph if he would resort to gossip or doing the very thing that had been done to him. Joseph remained righteous before God. (Gen 40-41:16--Joseph did not take credit for what God would do through him.)
If we spread rumors (gossip) about ourselves, it is no different than spreading rumors about someone else. It is still a lie (Prov 6:16-19), something that is destructive toward someone else, and the likelihood is that the damage will be far reaching. We build ourselves up, thinking we are something great, when in fact we are just deceiving ourselves and others--blowing smoke. (Gal 6:3) We need to test our own actions, our motives. Are our motives for selfish gain, or are they to build and strengthen our walk, unifying the body of Christ?
Paul addresses what he sees as the root problem of gossip, it is being idle, creating a void in our lives in need of filling. Paul points out plainly, “they are busybodies” plain and simple, busybodies. (2 Thes 3:11- 13) You see Paul is not worried about offending anyone, he speaks the truth for the sole reason of building up the body, helping them to be better, more productive believers. Paul goes on to say, “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (vs 12) This applies to men and women alike, be productive wherever you are, either at home or at work. It is a command not a suggestion.
Paul boldly says to mind your own business, (1 Thes 4:11-12). I can’t help thinking what it would be like if Paul or even Jesus were here today? I don’t believe they could say a thing without offending practically every religious group today. But to think about it, that is why Jesus was maligned all the way to the cross, and Paul was imprisoned and eventually put to death. Nothing has changed.
Paul instructed Timothy about gossip and what it can cause (1 Tim 6:20-21). Chatter not the truth. If we can convince ourselves and others of a lie, it will take little time before we believe it as truth. We can use the knowledge of the world to justify our false beliefs and call it good and acceptable. This may be so to the world, but we must remember we are just passersby in this world. We are to live in the world, not of the world--Big difference! (2 Cor 10:2-3)
Paul addresses the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:16. Do we sometimes wonder why our walk isn’t where we think it should be or where we would like it to be? Are we given over to a destructive pattern of chatter--gossip?
If we as Christians are indulging ourselves either at home or around the water cooler with gossip, where is our credibility, where is our character? Can our life stand the scrutiny of an outsider? ( A nonbeliever) Is there anything in our life that will allow someone to bring shame down on us as a representative of the Lord? (Titus 2:7-8) We as Christians need to remember that we are delegates, representatives of our Lord, in speech and in actions. We must live above criticisms, by not giving room for criticism to spawn and grow. We need to be persons of integrity, slandering no one, being peaceable and considerate. (Titus 3:1-2)
Peter addresses the same actions that Joseph displayed in 1 Pet 3:16. Joseph rose above the malicious allegations against him, and God blessed Joseph beyond any expectations. Joseph was unjustly thrown into prison but his character still remained untarnished in the eyes of God. As we read on we see how God blesses Joseph beyond any human expectations.
Joseph was given the chance to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. (Gen 41:15-45) Joseph was sure to indicate that it was not himself who was giving the interpretation (vs 16). God restored the character of Joseph and gave him great favor in the eyes of Pharaoh, enough that Joseph was given charge over the whole land of Egypt, (vs 41) because of his great wisdom. God also restored the relationship between his father, Israel, and his brothers who sold him into slavery. (Gen 45:3-28) Joseph also revealed God’s purpose why all this had to happen “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.“ (Gen 45:5) Joseph was blessed exceedingly so, because of the choices he made. Joseph did not blame or accuse, he did not harbor bitterness, resentment, or unforgiveness. Joseph moved beyond human feelings and responses knowing that God had a plan for his life; he trusted God regardless of the circumstances, and God rewarded Joseph’s faithfulness.
Are we as gracious when we are slandered and our character blemished, not to say destroyed, as Joseph was? Next time we are slandered, it would be wise to think about Joseph and what he went through and how he handled it, then I’m sure our situation will pale in comparison.
More study helps
Exod 23:1; Lev 19:16; Neh 6:12-13; Psalms 5:9; Psalms 15:2-3; Psalms 17:3; Psalms 34:12-13; Psalms 59:12-13; Psalms 101:5; Prov 8:13; Prov 11:13; Prov 15:4; Prov 16:28; Prov 20:19; 1Ti 5:13.